OKLAHOMA CITY — After winning its first ever College World Series game on Thursday the Tennesse softball team was knocked into the losers bracket on Friday, dropping their second game 3-1 to UCLA.
UCLA struck first in the bottom of the initial frame. With one out, Tara Henry hit a sharp grounder into the hole between short and third. Although sophomore shortstop Lindsay Schutzler made a nice play to pick up the short hop, her throw to first was not in time to get the speedy Henry. An ensuing grounder went to the circle and sophomore pitcher Monica Abbott took a look a second, realized she had no play there, and tossed to first for the second out.
Emily Zaplatosch followed with a hard shot just to the right of Abbott’s glove and into center field to plate Henry. After Jodie Legaspi beat out an infield hit to third, Abbott got out of the frame just allowing the one run. That tally did however end her scoreless-innings streak at 43.2.
Neither team would score until, with one out in the fourth, freshman first baseman Tonya Callaham blasted a towering, high shot over the tents just beyond the left field fence to tie the contest, 1-1. The shot was Tennessee’s first-ever home run in WCWS play.
The Bruins did grab the advantage back in the fifth, 2-1. After a one-out walk was issued to Henry and Abbott recorded a strikeout for the second out, her 582nd of the season (tying for second in NCAA Division I history with her own freshman season in 2004), Zaplatosch hit a hard grounder through the legs of junior third baseman Kristi Durant.
In the Lady Vols third game, they matched up with SEC foe Alabama in their first of two elimination games on Sunday.
Tennessee (67-14) became just the third SEC school to reach the semifinal round of the Women’s College World Series, shutting out Alabama late Sunday afternoon by a 4-0 score. The game was seen by the largest crowd to ever witness a Lady Vol softball contest: 6,148.
Prior to 2005, two SEC teams had never qualified for the same WCWS, so Sunday’s meeting was the first between league schools in the tournament’s history.
The previous two occurrences of an SEC team advancing as far as the semifinal round came in 2004 and 2001, both achieved by LSU.
The Crimson Tide threatened to get on the scoreboard right away in the top of the first. With one out, Jordan Praytor was hit by a pitch and Ashley Courtney singled to right, but both runners were stranded by Abbott. The second out was a strikeout of Alabama designated player Stephanie VanBrakle, the 583rd of the season for the 6-3 sophomore, setting a school record and surpassing her freshman season in 2004.
Tennessee then came out in the bottom of the frame with its bats on fire. Schutzler tied the SEC hit record with a double over the Alabama leftfielder’s head and off the fence on a bounce. At the time, she shared the mark of 105 with Georgia’s Nicole Barber (2002).
After Schutzler was sacrificed to third by junior centerfielder Fekete, junior third baseman Kristi Durant strode to the plate one RBI shy of the school record. As Schutzler broke from third, Durant laid down a suicide squeeze so perfectly that she even beat out the throw to first.
After Callahan reached on a fielder’s choice, junior leftfielder Katherine Card proceeded to hit her own one-hop double over the leftfielder and off the fence. Callahan cruised past third and scored easily on the play to give UT a 2-0 advantage.
In the bottom of the second, junior rightfielder Stacey Jennings singled into the hole at short and easily beat it out. She was sacrificed to second by freshman second baseman Kenora Posey. Following a ground out, Schutzler broke the SEC hit record with an RBI single to right to plate Jennings and Tennessee took a 3-0 advantage.
The win sent the Lady Vols into a matchup with top-ranked Michigan later that night. But it wasn’t until earlier the next morning did the Lady Vols walk off the field.
At 2:21 a.m. EDT on Monday morning, Tennessee first baseman Callahan brought the Lady Vols out of the dugout and onto the field in spirited celebration with a blast high into the night before it landed 10 feet beyond the left field fence and 10 feet to the right of the foul pole. The shot gave UT a dramatic 2-0 win in 11 innings over the No. 1-seeded Michigan squad.
The win was also historic for another reason. The win gives UT 67 victories, tying the record for the highest win total in NCAA Division I history; sharing it with the 1999 Illinois-Chicago Flames and the Arizona Wildcats of 1998.
The Lady Vols were anchored once again by pitcher Monica Abbott who threw 11 scoreless innings, keeping her team in position for the late-inning heroics.